Ignifer Tales, by Michael John Grist (2:16)

IOD-IgniferTalesToday we see that if you evoke a sense of immediate and visceral horror in the reader, they will be confused if your characters then seem bored.

What I gleaned about the stories: Avoid anything that sounds like a type of clown.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Inconsistent spacing of dashes

Analysis: The foreword starts with I started this collection 11 years ago in 2003- my first year in Japan.

While I notice hyphens used in place of other dashes, it doesn’t bother me; and I have a similar experience with spaces (or not) on either side of em-dashes. However, here there is no space before yet one after. So, as an interruption can be indicated by replacing the full stop with a em-dash, I parsed the sentence as I started this collection 11 years ago in 2003{Interruption!} and expected an interjection to follow. Therefore, the mellow aside that actually followed derailed me.

I almost immediately adjusted my parsing, but a stumble in the first line had questioned my trust so I moved on.

WTF #2: Unnecessary echoing details

Analysis: The first paragraph of the opening story describes the protagonist moving across a copper-roofed building hunting Bunnymen. This gave me an immediate mental image of a stealthy predator, and raised the question of what a Bunnyman was and which side was the side of right.

So, when the next paragraph described him creeping across the copper-flagged roof toward the Bunnyman he’d just spotted, the repeat of copper knocked me off course. It didn’t seem likely someone would forget between the first and second paragraph, so the reminder must be for emphasis; but why was it so important I focus on the use of copper?

A moment later, I wondered if the focus was an accident: either an attempt to add detail to the scene or a description that had been duplicated by moving it earlier without deleting the original.

Either way, my mental image of a stealthy hunt had drifted into architecture and editing, so I moved on.

Kudo #1: Good opening lines

Analysis: The opening line of the second story is: Two chimes had rung off the Pitboss’ gong when Lumpen Bob the Bellyhead lopped off a chunk of rock that bled.

I immediately wanted to know more: why is Bob lumpen? What’s a bellyhead? What are they mining that might include bleeding rocks.

The first story’s opener was good too, but this one really grabbed hard.

WTF #3: Loss of tension

Analysis: Following the discovery of the bleeding rock, Bob considers it for a moment then calls a colleague. The two of them speculate about whether the rock is a toe, whether there is a body on the end of it, and how it might have got there; all in the tone of a casual chat.

The opening line had produced a powerful image of something odd or wrong; I wanted to know more. By the middle of the second page, the last of that tension had been lost beneath the image of two people discussing it like the weather.

Had the story opened as if finding dead bodies was an everyday occurrence, the banality of the conversation would have sustained that subtle horror; but, the clash between visceral horror and tedium here was too extreme, so I pulled the plug.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Three Culture Shocks, by Tony Thorne (1:36)
Three Tales for Christmas, by Steph Bennion (40:00)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.